With the 79th All-Star Game in the record books, the formal countdown for No. 80 got under way on Tuesday. Major League Baseball and the Cardinals unveiled the logo for the 2009 Midsummer Classic, which will be held at new Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis. It's 343 days until the '09 game, but it didn't feel that way in the Champions Club on Tuesday afternoon.
"We are really excited about bringing the 80th All-Star Game to the great baseball city of St. Louis," said Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball's president and chief operating officer. "We had a wonderful time in New York this year, and I can think of no National League city that could follow what we did in Yankee Stadium other than St. Louis."
DuPuy was the key speaker in a news conference filled with local and national dignitaries. Also on hand were St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, numerous representatives of Cardinals ownership and the front office, manager Tony La Russa and 2008 All-Stars Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick. Pujols and Ludwick did the actual unveiling of the logo.
After seeing off old Yankee Stadium, this time around MLB will show off new Busch Stadium. The All-Star Game hasn't taken place in St. Louis since 1966 -- the first year of the previous facility to hold the name Busch Stadium.
DuPuy was just one member of a delegation of MLB representatives who attended the unveiling. The event came three weeks after a ceremonial "handoff" breakfast in New York, when a delegation from the Cardinals and the city and county of St. Louis was briefed on the beginning of the countdown to '09.
The centerpiece of the announcement on Tuesday was the unveiling of the logo, which features a classic Cardinal "bird on a bat," the Gateway Arch and text reminiscent of the lettering on the Cardinals' jerseys. The lettering isn't exact -- the lowercase "l's" are different -- but there's no mistaking where the look came from.
The Cardinals are proud of their traditional look, and of their traditions. DuPuy said he expects the 2009 All-Star events to highlight not only the city and the ballpark, but the history of the Cardinals franchise. And the club can't wait.
"The Cardinals are very proud to host the 80th All-Star Game," said the team's principal owner, Bill DeWitt Jr. "It's an opportunity for us to showcase our new ballpark, which fortunately has already been home to our 10th world championship, and we're very excited to have a signature event like the All-Star Game here."
The new park is a big part of the reason MLB is bringing its biggest in-season event to St. Louis.
"Commissioner Selig is committed to showcasing the new ballparks and showcasing the cities that have gone to the effort of building a new ballpark," DuPuy said. "And there's no better new ballpark than Busch Stadium. I think that had a lot to do with the award.
The hope was that the park would be complemented by Ballpark Village by the time the All-Star Game came to town, but that won't be the case. However, work did begin on the site on Tuesday, with backhoes digging into the dirt just outside where the announcement took place. The multipurpose development, featuring residences, offices, shops and restaurants, is still a while off, but at least work is under way.
"We've had no discussion about that," DuPuy said. "I've been reading bout it. ... [But] our All-Star Game will dominate the entire downtown for four days. We like St. Louis. We like downtown. We like the accommodations. Everything will be just fine."
That aspect -- the predominance of All-Star week facilities -- was one element that made St. Louis particularly appealing to Major League Baseball. The league knows that in mid-July of next year, there will be only one topic of conversation in most of St. Louis.
"New York was a great show," DuPuy said. "But there is also something to having an All-Star Game in a city like Pittsburgh or a city like St. Louis or a city like Detroit or a city like Milwaukee, where it takes up the entire downtown. ... New York went on with the business of being New York. St. Louis won't go on with the business of being St. Louis. It will be the All-Star Game."
Many of the nuts-and-bolts details of All-Star week events are still to come. Ticket information is yet to be announced, along with information such as venues for the various non-game events. But MLB has planted its flag in St. Louis, and for the next 49 weeks, the league, the team and the city will be working towards the All-Star Game.
"Other than playing in October, there's nothing more spectacular than an All-Star Game," said La Russa. "You have the best baseball players in the world on the same field. You get a chance to watch them on the workout day, and then the game itself. I think it's great to watch if you're a fan, and if you happen to be on the field it's even more of a thrill to see the guys interact. I'm sure that next year here in St. Louis the guys are going to have a very special experience."
Later in the afternoon, the Cardinals also unveiled their first in-stadium signage commemorating the game. Two signs, one with the logo and one with date and television information, will stand behind the bleachers in left-center field at Busch Stadium.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.